NFL to Make History on Monday Night Football With First Ever All-Black Officiating Crew

A historic new chapter in NFL history will be written next week when an all-Black officiating crew will take charge of game for the first time in the league's 100-year history.

Jerome Boger will lead the seven-man crew when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football in a matchup that could reshape the race to the playoffs in the NFC.

A former quarterback at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, Boger is one of the most respected match officials in the league. He was promoted to referee in 2006 and was part of the officiating team for Super Bowl XLVII, becoming only the second African-American to be included in a Super Bowl officiating crew after Mike Carey in Super Bowl XLII.

On Monday night, Boger will be joined by umpire Barry Anderson, down judge Julian Mapp, line judge Car Johnson, field judge Dale Shaw, side judge Anthony Jeffries and back judge Greg Steed.

The NFL usually puts together its 17 officiating crews ahead of the season and tries to keep them together whenever possible, in order to improve communication and familiarity between the members. However, because of the novel coronavirus pandemic the league broke with tradition this season and assembled the crew on a geographical basis, to allow referees and officials to drive to and from games instead of flying.

Of the seven-man group officiating the game on Monday night, only Johnson and Steed aren't typically part of Boger's crew.

Compared to the other major U.S. leagues, the NFL was a trailblazer in terms of Black officials. Burl Toler became the first Black official in the NFL and in major U.S. sports in 1965 and four of the current 17 referees and/or crew chiefs are Black—Boger, Adrian Hill, Ron Torbert and Shawn Smith.

In percentage terms, that is a higher proportion than for NFL coaches. Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin and his Los Angeles Chargers counterpart Anthony Lynn are the only two Black head coaches in the league, along with Washington Football Team's Ron Rivera, who is also from a minority background.

"This historic Week 11 crew is a testament to the countless and immeasurable contributions of Black officials to the game, their exemplary performance, and to the power of inclusion that is the hallmark of this great game," NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said in a statement.

Incidentally, the NFL's latest milestone will come in a game featuring two teams that have themselves written important chapters in terms of inclusion. In 1946, the Rams made Kenny Washington the first African American player to sign for a NFL team in the modern era.

The Bucs this year became the first team in NFL history to have three Black coordinators on their staff (defensive coordinator Todd Bowlers, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong) and two female assistant coaches (defensive line coach Lori Locust and strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar.)

Jerome Boger, NFL
Referee Jerome Boger walks to the field before an NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and the Denver Broncos at New Era Field on November 24, 2019 in Orchard Park, New York. Boger will take charge of the first all Black officiating crew on Monday. Bryan M. Bennett/Getty